Hunting > Upland & Waterfowl

How to Make Duck Confit

Confit is a centuries-old method for salt curing a piece of meat, usually goose, duck or sometimes hog, then poaching it in its own fat.

Georgia

Georgia is a chef, author, and hunter who has worked at some of the country’s best restaurants. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book "Food Heroes," and the upcoming book "Girl Hunter." She blogs about her travels at GeorgiaPellegrini.com.

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I recently went duck hunting for several days near New Orleans, on Bayou Terra Buff. More than anything, it was the thought of a crisply roasted duck that woke me at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It was the thought of the sweet and salty tang of thinly sliced duck prosciutto that made those early dark mornings worthwhile.

The ducks came in waves, high in the sky and far in the distance; sometimes they flirted with our decoys, but never enough. There were green winged teal and blue winged teal and a cinnamon teal from time to time. Once there was even a pintail. Their silhouettes against the panorama and quiet were impressive. There was nothing but glowing violet sky and water and the burning green outlines simmering above the shoreline of New Orleans.

While my friend and I sat watching the glow of the marsh and the occasional darting cloud of snipe, we talked about what is endlessly satisfying to us-the place in the world where the outdoors and food collide. He declared that the canvasback was the best eating duck, and we debated how to make New Orleans duck taste better, since it is fishier than ones you would find in places like Arkansas.

The beauty of cooking wild animals is that it doesn't just start with you and the cutting board, it is the whole cycle of life you have to consider. What did this duck eat? And what was the thing that it ate eating? All of this affects how you eat it and what exactly you eat from it and with it. Maybe the duck should be brined to remove the fishiness from the skin; maybe the skin should be removed and the meat cured in salt. At the very least, it is always eaten rare.

One of my favorite methods of curing duck and goose is called "confit." It is a centuries-old method for salt curing a piece of meat, usually goose, duck or sometimes hog, then poaching it in its own fat.

Meat curing was widespread among prior civilizations because it prevented waste and guaranteed a food supply in the case of a poor harvest. The French and Italians were the first to raise this skill to an art form. Local craftsmen formed guilds and produced a range of cooked or salted dried meats, which varied from region to region. The only raw product they were allowed to sell was unrendered lard. These preservation methods ensured that meats would have a longer shelf-life than even in more modern times.

Duck confit is simple to make at home, and is a perfect way to store meat when you don't have time to cook it, and you just can't fit another thing in your freezer. All that it requires is salt and duck fat. In fact, if you get into the habit of freezing duck skins, you can easily render duck fat yourself, which is quite a bit cheaper than buying it in the store (I'll show you that technique in a future post!). Rendered hog fat will also work in a pinch. It is ideal to confit legs with the skin on, but with wild ducks you can't always be picky. If you don't have skin, simply use extra fat and rotate the meat more often while it cooks. You can also confit the gizzards, hearts, necks, livers and any other bits that you might otherwise discard. The breasts, though, are best left seared or turned into prosciutto.

When you create the salt cure for your confit, you can keep it simple or play with flavorings-add rosemary, thyme, garlic, orange or lemon zest, star anise or whatever else makes it more interesting to you. In the end, once the meat is cured, cooked and cooled, it can be removed from the bone and stored in a glass jar in the fat for up to six months. The gizzards and other offal are great used in a cassoulet or casserole, as is the leg meat. Or the whole thing is perfect eaten cold in a salad, or right off the bone while still warm! Either way, the meat shreds and melts in a buttery kind of way.

Duck Confit
(Serves 4)

4 mallard or speckled goose legs (about 16 oz) or the equivalent in smaller duck legs, or gizzards, hearts, and necks
4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

1 sprig rosemary, picked

2 sprigs thyme, picked

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked

½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

1 piece star anise, crushed (optional)

1 teaspoon juniper berries (optional)

6 tablespoons duck fat

1. Make the confit salt by roughly chopping the herbs and combining all of the ingredients except the duck and duck fat, together in a small bowl.

2. Rinse the duck and pat dry. If using a leg, expose the leg bone with a paring knife to help the salt cure evenly.

3. Place in a baking dish or skillet and rub on all sides with the salt mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and remove the duck from the refrigerator.

5. Rinse the legs or duck parts very well under running water for several minutes. Pat dry with paper towel. Wipe out the skillet and return the duck legs to it.

6. Scoop the duck fat into the skillet and cover with tin foil.

7. Place in the oven and cook for 2 to 3 hours. If there is skin on the legs, remove the foil for the last 30 minutes, if not, turn the meat over halfway through cooking. It is ready when the meat is very tender and has a shredded quality when pulled with a fork.

8. Remove the skillet from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot or eat cold over a salad. It is also excellent in a terrine or a cassoulet.

 

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12 Responses to How to Make Duck Confit

Deborah wrote:
February 20, 2011

You sure know how to get my taste buds in gear! I love your descriptions of the great outdoors, too. I feel like I'm there with you. More articles, please!

Jimmy wrote:
February 20, 2011

Another home-run, Ms. Pellegrini! So beautifully written; a recipe born of story. An elegantly presented story! Start with your incentive for rising at 3AM. Then, “...ducks came in waves.” “...outdoors and food collide.” “...burning green outlines simmering.” “...glow of the marsh.” “...silhouettes...against the quiet.” “...meat shreds...in a buttery kind of way.” And, finally, ‘offal’ -- a word I simply enjoy using and finding in use. Again, your appetite elevating recipes are presented with clarity and precision. I look forward to your next article!

Freddie wrote:
February 19, 2011

I've got all of these duck legs here, I'm gonna try this, thanks!

Bob wrote:
February 17, 2011

Sounds delicious

Smoking Guns wrote:
February 17, 2011

I am literally drooling over that picture. Can't wait to try the recipe!

Mackenzie wrote:
February 17, 2011

My mouth is watering just reading this! Sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Mackenzie wrote:
February 17, 2011

My mouth is watering just reading this! Sounds delicious.

Victoria Rich wrote:
February 17, 2011

Great story and recipe! Thanks for sharing -

Bill Gray wrote:
February 17, 2011

Georgia, sure do thank you for sharing this great experience and serving up such a liberal dose of interesting and useful information on Confit. This is not at all unlike you. Hope you also took a horn of very old single malt as a post-hunt reward. Bill

Fran Belfor wrote:
February 17, 2011

this sounds so delicious. years ago friends went Boar hunting in the south. WHen they came home they made the most amazing dishes. Great article. wonderful recipe.

Elaine Davey wrote:
February 17, 2011

I love Duck! but never get it quite right.Your herbs are an interesting combo which I will try this weekend for my guests. Your style of land to table with all the elements from the garden used has just the right touch. Thanks!

Athena wrote:
February 17, 2011

Duck confit in 8 steps. I must try this. I'm already starting to dream about duck meat I can pull off with a fork.